Saturday 30 April 2011

War in Whirarwistan

Whilst having the enjoyment of constructing the mother of all pergolas my mind has been musing over the subject of my mini-Force on Force late '80's US/Soviet clash in some dusty Third World country (the fictional Whirarwistan found somewhere around the border of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan).

Having sat with my Ecsi US Infantry and spent some time researching various Infantry Platoon TO&E's I've decided to go with a Mechanized Infantry Platoon which needs less infantry but did require the purchasing of some M2 Bradley IFV's. Not fancying making up kits for the four IFV's needed I did some browsing on pre-paints/diecasts in the end settling for the Altaya/Amercom/Deagostini M2 (Saudi Arabia 1991) in a nice desert yellow over green camo. With a little work they look like they can come up nicely as can be seen on this Polish blog.

I also decided to pick up a box of Revell Modern US infantry as the Esci box doesn't contain any M249 SAW gunners and it will add a bit of pose variety (and also should give me enough figures to expand the Mechanized Infantry Platoon into a regular one. A good half RRP deal on eBay covered this.

For the Soviets I have decided on a Motorised Infantry Platoon, it might not be 100% accurate using the Esci Russian Paras but we'll see how they look and what options I can find for Soviet troops sporting berets. APC wise I decided I wanted a BTR rather than BMP look and settled on the Easy Model BTR80 "Imperial Guard Troops" version. Again, a similar sand/green look to the Americans but one I like.

I've yet to decided on whether to get any tanks at this stage but various M1's and T72's are widely available so this isn't a major concern. I just need to find some 1p's to base the infantry on now! :-)

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Cold War Hot!

Before tea I had a quick rummage in the attic to check out what boxes of 20mm modern plastics I had sitting around to use with Force on Force and came downstairs with a nice pile. Whilst I couldn't find the old Esci Vietnam boxes I know I have, I was surprised to find two boxes of Esci's Modern US Soldiers, two boxes of their Modern Russian Paratroopers Spetsnaz, a box of NATO troops and a box of Warsaw Pact Troops all of which I must have picked up in the Eighties.

The US Soldiers are of that era and I think they are beautifully sculpted and detailed, the only criticism I could level at them is that they are a tad static. That said they'll be perfect for Force on Force and with a good mix of M16's, M60's and M47 Dragon launchers. A number of the troops have their sleeves rolled up and whilst they could be used for temperate theatres (spring/summer) the lack of a temperate OPFOR dictates they will be painted up in the wonderful US desert chocolate chip camo.

The reason for that is the Russian Paras (the obvious hypothetical OPFOR) who are clearly kitted out for service in Afghanistan or similar climes, a number sporting tropical hats, most berets. Again beautifully sculpted, the poses are a bit static but nothing too serious to worry about. Looking at the sprues it may be that the Russians are short in the LMG department, but there is a rather generic looking figure in the Warsaw Pact set who may well be of use, although he is wearing a helmet.

The NATO and Warsaw Pact Troops boxes are really oddities with three or four poses form particular armies and not a lot of use unless they can be combined with something else. The Warsaw Pact box does contain a Czech tank crewman who is generic enough to be a Russian and some of the others amongst the East German, Czech, Poles and Hungarians may work with head swaps. The NATO box is less useful with a mix of British, German, French and Italian but who knows.

I also discovered a box of Matchbox's NATO Paratroops which are nice figures with a good mix of weapons. Largely SLR armed the major negative compared to the Esci US Infantry and Russian Paras is that they are in cold weather kit more suitable for the Falklands that somewhere ending in 'Stan. Again, save them for another day.

Overall a good rummage and I have more than enough troops to raise a couple of platoons of US and Soviets to paint up for some hypothetical '80's clash somewhere between North Africa and Pakistan...

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Force On Force

Cunning plan to take three days holiday from work to link the two "four day weekends" and rescue the game room failed at the first hurdle - SWMBO... She pointed at the huge pile of wood in the back garden and ordered me to build her pergola! Prayers to the rain gods went unanswered and to be fair it has been sat awaiting construction since delivery last summer (and it is so big it does look like I could use it for having some BIG wargames outside complete with BBQ!). Five days of DIY (three blisters and many cuts, bruises and aches) later it is still not quite finished (though all 400 screws have now been screwed into the deck and the posts are all upright) so it looks like I'll have to miss the royal wedding (damn) to finish it off! :-)

In between times I haven't managed to paint a thing but after resisting the five pound off offer at Salute I fell victim to Amazon's over ten pounds off offer and ordered the new edition of Force on Force. Whilst I'd heard lots of positive comment about them I hadn't really intended to buy them given the rrp and just how good could they really be? Well, I haven't had a chance to play them and am only part way through reading them but I like what I am reading a whole lot.

Games are fought in a small area (if you use 15 or 20mm, a two foot square table is recommended), opposing dice rolls of varying types are used (a chance to dig out those old D8's and D12's!), the emphasis is on small unit tactics not an individual's abilities and I really like the way the game treats regular v irregular (asymmetric warfare) as distinctly different from regular v regular which is perfect for what I want to do, not only with the small (rather random) collection of modern figures I have, but also my (sadly dormant this year) modern English Civil War project.

Production is top notch (as you'd expect from Osprey), the hardback being slightly wider than an Osprey MAA but all in all a nice size. My only bugbear is whilst there are lots of varied artwork of modern troops, the photos are almost exclusively of US troops which is disappointing.

Overall I have to confess I probably wouldn't have taken the plunge at £25 for the game, there are too many "Beano annual" sets hitting the market at £25 plus these days to keep doing that, but at £14.68 (the price of a Chinese takeaway at Blease Towers) I took a punt and was glad I did. Really looking forward to giving this one a spin...

Friday 22 April 2011

The Dungeons Are Calling

One of my purchases at Salute was a copy of Mantic's Dwarf King's Hold: Dead Rising as a game we could take on holiday etc, or just break out for a quick battle. Official RRP is £34.99 but we picked it up for £30 from Wayland Games on the day.

We did play a quick game on the Mantic stand using the 3 up model game that they were running and I was impressed by the way the chit-based movement allowed the game to ebb and flow with advantage appearing and disappearing quickly. Having now had a chance to read the rules I am even more impressed this is a really very clever little game with a number of subtleties belied by its very simple game mechanics.

I was also very impressed with the quality of the components. You get 22 skeletons, 7 dwarves (groan) plus loads of odds and sods on the sprues, some beautiful card floor tiles, counters and several dice. If you didn't need to stick the miniatures together you'd be ready to go.

I must confess that I didn't like either the look of either the skeletons or dwarves when released but able to physically hold and study the sprues I have revised my opinion. The skeletons are excellent and I can't recall seeing a sprue so crammed full of spare bits. The dwarves still don't quite do it for me, but they are better than the photos on the internet.

Overall I must say this is an excellent game, lots of potential for expansion and a great one to play with either the kids or regular gaming buddies with a couple of beers on hand.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

1st Cavalry Army Air Wing R.E.8

Back to the Eastern Front and I finished off this Skytrex RE8 in Soviet markings this morning. This particular plane was captured off the Poles in 1920 before being given fresh markings and re-entering service with the 1st Cavalry Army's Air Wing.

This is a lovely little model and I'll probably buy a couple more as I'd like at least two in RAF markings and now fancy doing one in Polish. Despite the basic PC10 (Tamiya NATO Green) scheme the light grey nose and red tailfin do make it stand out nicely on the tabletop.

The 'Harry Tate' is probably the last of my planes for the Workers and Peasant's Red Air Fleet (well possibly another Snipe as I'd like to do "Nelly") as I need to paint up a couple of Poles and some White Russian opposition soon.

Next is my repaint of the Wings of War RNAS DH 4. I must confess whilst being VERY tempted with the experimental scheme pictured above but am leaning towards a more traditional PC10 look as I have been reading about 55 Squadron's railway station and sidings raids in Keith Rennles' Independent Force which would make for a cracking AirWar: 1918 game.

Monday 18 April 2011

Hitler Wants To Play Warhammer 40K

David Stuckey brought this wonderful You Tube video to my attention. Don't watch if easily offended, there are some very colourful sub-titles! :-)

Sunday 17 April 2011

Salute 2011

The omens were not good for Salute 2011... I left the camera charging at home, forgot to charge the Blackberry on the trip up the M4, someone decided to dig up the North Circular again and arriving at the ExCel at 9.25am, the pre-paid ticket queue was worse than Games Day (and I never thought to experience that again). However, the Warlords cleared the pre-paids swiftly and efficiently (GW take note) when the doors opened, the Blackberry held on to take 150 odd photos despite being on no bars in a red box for most of the day and both Saul and I had a great time.

The ExCel might just be an impersonal metal box but it does give you loads of space and once through the door it was remarkably spacious (given the massive queue outside) allowing easy access to most traders and games. Some people moan about the ticket price but the amount of inspiration I come away with from Salute makes it worth every penny.

The games were of a consistently high quality. In some respects it is unfair to select some over others but the ones that especially caught my eye were an amazing US v Japanese Aeronef game, the 6mm Towton, an Abyssinian 1936 game, a Monmouth Rebellion game and a great FIBUA Grozny battlescape.

Spending wise well... I can say that I did not break my vow to start a new period and only bought figures to help finish existing projects but am broke! I did falter badly with Skytrex when buying two Spads and two Albatrosses but ended up getting a Sopwith Triplane and Handley Page 0/400(!), but I did resist the lovely new Short bomber. Ancients wise I did pick up Clash of Empires from Gripping Beast which I have only given a cursory glance to but looks ok (I also bought a box of Saxons to keep the Vikings I bought last year company - actually for Saga, more of which anon) . I intended to buy one box of Immortal Spartans but took advantage of their offer on three hoplite boxes which should now give me all the main units I need for the (as yet unstarted) Peloponnesian War project. Perry Miniatures (showing off lots of new plastic 3 ups) were selling their boxes for £15 so I grabbed a box of Zoauves to go with my ACW plastic boxes (all I need now is a few pieces of artillery to finish this) and might have a few left over to French VSF. Renedra has some interesting accessories on show and I bought a set of their new plastic gravestones and a pontoon bridge,

I did check a variety of games out whilst Saul played a few games of Wings of War. I did beat him trying out Mantic's Dwarf King's Hold boxed game which was a lot of fun so we bought a copy. Similar to Space Hulk in concept, this Dwarves v Undead game has a very cute chit based system that keep you on your toes and requires you to think tactically. Our game swung one way, then the other and then back again and we're looking forward to playing this a lot (and taking it on holiday!).  The Dark Age skirmish game Saga that Gripping Beast are publishing in the UK I only got a brief look at near the end of the day, but it looked useful with around 50 figures a side in units of around a dozen. I don't think any of the ancients set were selling themselves very well, Clash of Empires realising a small table with a couple of units would allow gamers to get a handle on the basic concepts (Mantic did this well with Kings of War). The other forthcoming game that caught my eye was Where The Poppies Grow, a brigade level WWI game demonstrated with lovely terrain and 20mm figures. Apparently available from July I was quite taken with the inclusion of air elements fighting above the land battle which added a splash of colour and worked visually very well...

A number of forthcoming releases caught my eye. The Perry plastic 3 up's were interesting, but I was more taken with the Warlord Zulu War figures, their WW2 US infantry and Macedonian pike. Mantic were giving away sprues of their forthcoming Orcs if you signed up to mailing lists or played a game so we now have a small unit(!). Seriously they are very good and whilst I didn't like the Dwarves or Skeletons that much (they aren't as good as GW), the Orcs are really top quality.

Finally, as is my wont these days I've uploaded the photos into iMovie with prog rock sound track and uploaded the end product on You Tube so you if you have ten minutes you can see some of the wonderful games and models at Salute yesterday...

Friday 15 April 2011

Royal Engineer Steam Walker

You may recall last year that I painted up a section of Royal Engineer Automatons from Ironclad Miniatures for an as yet undecided 28mm VSF project. I decided to give them some heavy support in the form of this Steam Walker.

The model is from the old Mage Knight line and I picked a number of this model up off eBay a while back (having been warned away from pillaging Saul's collection!), IIRC it is from the Atlantean Kingdom army but I may be wrong. I repositioned one leg to give the impression of it charging forward movement and repainted it in a similar weather-worn scheme to the automatons before adding some kapok for the smoke.

We're off to Salute in a couple of hours and I've been drawing up my list conscious of my pledge not to buy anything new unless needed to help finish a project. This is proving hard but I am hoping my will power will survive (I'm not going anywhere near the Empress Miniatures stand and those lovely 28mm Modern Brits for a start!). My list is fairly conservative and I hope to restrict my purchases to Gripping BeastImmortal Miniatures and Skytrex. The main focus will be checking out new games such as Kings of WarSaga and War & Conquest.

Well that's the plan, but you know what they say about plans... :-)

Monday 11 April 2011

The Successor War(game)s

If you have even a passing interest in Ancients it can't have escaped you that the long awaited Warhammer Ancient Battles II was a bit of a flop and the long promised supplements still non-existent. I did consider buying it at Salute last year (I even walked over to Forgeworld with the money in my hand) but am glad I held off...

So with WAB effectively dead or dying three potential successors for the crown have appeared in the form of Hail Caesar, Clash of Empires and War & Conquest. The latter is not due until the summer so may have lost out to the first two which are both available at Salute (or is poised to sweep up if the first two do not get the love from the disillusioned WAB crowd).

Now whilst I have no issue playing "dead" wargames and will probably use WAB I for some games with Saul, I must confess my palms did itch when I saw Hail Caesar advertised.

However, after reading the battle report in WI282 and comparing it to the Greek v Persian one on the Clash of Empires site I've decided it's not for me and rashly pre-ordered CoE from Gripping Beast to collect on Saturday.

It doesn't look a great deal different to WAB and that's the kind of game I want to play. I love Warmaster and its derivatives but the size of game that Hail Casear (and Black Powder) are aimed at is beyond me (well at least in 28mm). I also like the fact that Great Escape Games have already uploaded a ton of army lists onto their website covering a number of the popular armies (something WAB failed to do).

Now all I'll have to do is paint some more figures (and rescue the games room!!).

Sunday 10 April 2011

67th South Mordor Foot

Whilst SWMBO has had me on bathroom DIY duty this weekend I did mange to finish off a few more miniatures whilst the sealant remover was curing! These chaps are Light Company troops from the 67th South Mordor for Flintloque.

Originally they were slated for inclusion in the second edition boxed set of Flintloque I was working on before I quit freelancing for CCI in 1997 (which is when they last received any attention with a paint brush).

The Light Company section would also have included a "magickyman", an oddball character with some limited magical abilities.

Magic had largely been wiped from the background in the first edition but I was keen to see it come back in some unpredictable and dangerous way that could be just as hazardous to the user as their intended target. I never got around to writing up the rules for "magickymen" but they would have fumbled their spell on the roll of a natural double, similar to a musket misfire (just with direr consequences!).

As you can see from the miniature Mike Owen sculpted, they would have been interesting and unique characters, this one having elements of the Mad Hatter and a patchwork coat.

Finally I finished off the Sharke and Harpy miniatures sculpted for the 2nd edition. IMHO they were superior to those in the original box set and owed more to the background (Sharke being half-elven) than the original sculpts.

Friday 8 April 2011

Finklestein Dwarf Jägers

Trying to take Tas's advice of doing a little bit each day I managed to finish off these Finklestein Dwarf  Jägers for Flintloque.

Bearing in mind they got to the 99% finished stage last century, it was nice to see them finished (and yes, they were painted in enamels!). They were one of the last sets Mike Owen sculpted and I'm not sure if they were every commercially released as I can't find them on the Alternative Armies website.

This officer of the Krautian Guard is, he was a test painting to see how he looked in a white tunic. By this stage of my involvement with Flintloque I was keen to re-emphasise the fantasy element as I could see no point just recreating the Napoleonic Wars where the only difference was the models "funny faces" (a view I still hold to and IMHO a weakness in the games development).

For a change I based the models on round bases. Previously I had based my Flintloque figures on square ones, but I prefer round for skirmish games and think the GW War of the Ring bases may be a useful option if I want to have regular formations with these figures at a later stage.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Darkie's Mob

Titan seem to eventually getting their act together with their reissues of old Battle comic book stories and the postman delivered a hardback compendium of Darkie's Mob, a story set in Burma about British troops caught behind enemy lines during the Japanese invasion, rescued by the mysterious Captain Darkie who leads them on a series of missions against the Japanese.

Unlike many war comic stories of the mid-seventies, this is no Captain Hurricane style adventure swatting the Japs with an uprooted palm tree, it is violent to a near visceral level, grisly and unrelenting and at times racist (though as Garth Ennis states in his introduction, this was a total war where the both sides demonsied the enemy and in that context it would be inappropriate for the British troops to act as though it was a tea party). It is a powerful story with an interesting mystery at its centre and if this was 15 or 18 certificate film we'd all love it! :-)

I must confess I don't recall it being as violent when I read it as a wide-eyed eleven year old but I do recall fighting Darkie's Mob battles with Airfix Aussies and Japs in my bedroom. One thing that did attract me to the story in the first place was Mike Western's artwork and I do hope Titan reprint his work on The Sarge and HMS Nightshade as he is a most under appreciated artist and deserves recognition.

Overall I've not read much better in the way of fiction, or seen any films set in the Far East campaign that compare to this and recommend it with the provisio that if you are letting your eleven year old read it make sure you discuss the context of some of the language with them before they re-enact an ambush at school yelling "take that you slant-eyed son of Satan!"

Monday 4 April 2011

April Is... Games Room Month!

This is Buffy, our six year old house cat with a dicky ticker. Yesterday he went AWOL. Saul and I had got back from a gig around midnight and although we turned the house upside down we assumed he'd sneaked out the front door as we came in. Being a house cat and very timid we were extremely worried.

This morning little bugger turns up after spending 32 hours in the games room. I am extremely baffled as to where in the room he was. Ok, there is a lot of stuff piled on, under and around the table but I did move piles of it yesterday and even sent his brother Sandy in on a search and rescue mission. There are no floorboards, dry walls whatever, he just hid somewhere!

Unfinished: 15mm Napoleonic Italians

Anyway this has led me to conclude that the games room needs rescuing, tidying and some games playing in it, so that is this month's project (and after yesterday it is now such a big tip that I'm too embarrassed to photograph it!).

 Unfinished: 20mm WWII Americans

However, this month will not solely comprise of tales of boxing up things and putting them neatly away, during the search I regained access to some filing cabinets chock full of miniatures and I had a bit of an epiphany in that I realised I don't need to buy any more wargames figures (well maybe not never, but certainly for a very long time). I have such a multitude of scales, periods and forces (mainly unpainted) that it is bloody ridiculous.

Unfinished: 28mm Darkest Africa

I also came across miniatures that are 75 to 90% finished (see various photos) and that have been in that state for years and that is stupid (some of these may get finished this month to keep my hand in).

Unfinished: 20mm Modern Russians

So my pledge is that I am not going to buy anything new on the miniatures front, unless it is absolutely necessary to complete an existing project (and that doesn't mean buying two full AWI armies to go with the two British AWI figures I found, but small units and odd models).

Unfinished: 28mm Finklestein Dwarves

Also I will go through the filing cabinets, boxes etc, etc, and if I don't want to paint and use it I will be selling it - no more hoarding!

Thank you Buffy!